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Love and heart are not often words that are associated with leadership in the construction industry or in strong company culture. However, Sheryl Palmer, chairman and CEO at Taylor Morrison, spent her education session at the 2020 International Builders' Show distilling preconceived notions about love and illustrating how it can inform strong leadership and strong company performance.

“How does heart translate in corporate speak? For me, it’s every day, it’s every interaction,” Palmer said in her education session “What’s Love Got to Do With It? When It Comes to Culture, Lead From the Heart.” “Having heart doesn’t mean the absence of the ability to make tough decisions.”

Love, heart, and vulnerability all have negative connotations in a business setting, related to weakness. However, Palmer argues all three traits are not only tied to courage and strength, but helps develop a more defined and powerful company culture.

“Leading from the heart is about understanding the whole person, because you can’t break apart an employee’s home and work life,” Palmer said. “[Leading from the heart] means when we make tough decisions and talk to people, we do it with kindness and recognize they are human beings.”

Culture is a strong indicator of business performance and recruitment. A majority of all executives and managers recognize that a prospective employee’s alignment of with company culture is more important than their skills and talents, according to Palmer. Likewise, employees will often self-select employment opportunities based on companies they believe have culture that aligns with their beliefs. The presence of heart in company executives can instil a healthier company culture and motivate higher performing employees.

“Culture is built on a foundation of trust and openness,” Palmer said. “Culture can’t be faked. If it’s not authentic, everybody knows it.”

Palmer said communication is one of the strongest forms of culture cultivation. By communicating with team members, they feel more like a member of a team and valued by the organization. In the absence of information and communication from company executives, employees will draw their own conclusions and create their own narrative for the company.

“Culture is about how you show up each and every day to work. You don’t know it, but if you show up [in a bad mood], you have set the tone for the day,” Palmer said. “If you don’t think your team watches every move you make, you’re wrong. The way you show you up for work has a tremendous amount of impact.”

If company culture is strong, Palmer said it can be tied to measurable outcomes. Improved employee experiences in the business is related to improved customer experience and can be directly related to improved company financial performance. Team members who become empowered to do the right thing create a ripple effect that positively impacts the entire company, Palmer said. And this can all be tied back to company culture.